Since reports first surfaced of issues with Centrelink’s new data matching systems linked to Australian Tax Office data, Pirate Party Australia’s social media accounts have been swamped with stories of incorrect debt claims going back many years, including debts from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

It is clear from many reports that Centrelink is automatically generating flawed debts based on algorithms that will obviously produce incorrect results[1], this new attempt by the government to crassly reduce spending on social security has revealed their true policy: to treat anyone who makes a legitimate claim as guilty until proven innocent.

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The Pirate Party urges caution following the announcement by the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, that retrospective legislation will be introduced to criminalise the re-identification of de-identified government data. The threat of retrospective legislation may be a ploy to silence critics of the government for discussing flaws in government-published datasets without due process. Consequently, this may prevent anyone bringing security flaws in government practices to attention — including the attention of the Government.

In a media release issued on Wednesday afternoon[1] the Attorney-General announced his intention to introduce new laws aimed at protecting data published by the Government. These changes appear to completely miss their mark, and may in fact criminalise the inspection of datasets for flaws and faults. The broad terms of the proposal could easily implicate any researchers in the field of data anonymity — anyone whose research involves examining datasets for potential privacy flaws.

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With fresh moves afoot to remove the words insult and offend from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act[1], the Pirate Party calls upon Parliament to get serious about supporting free speech.

“Pirate Party Australia is well aware of the risks around state censorship of opinions,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We fought the Internet censorship laws of the Rudd Government and we opposed the Gillard Government’s attempt to extend section 18C in ways that would have banned causing offence on the grounds of religion and political opinion.”

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ppau-digital-privacyDespite the serious privacy concerns first raised by the Pirate Party in March, and now shared by thousands of Australians as well as the Greens, Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has continued to forge ahead with the invasive 2016 Census. For the first time the ABS is planning to keep names for four years, linking very personal information asked by the Census questionnaire. Like many, the Pirate Party has raised objections to the collection of identifying information, and now calls on the ABS to declare the giving of “Name” and “Address” optional.

“The ABS has not properly consulted with the Australian public on this new, more invasive version of the Census,” said Simon Frew, President of the Pirate Party. “Names are not required by law according to former Australian Statistician Bill McLennan [PDF], and it is difficult to see how names could help with statistical analysis. Collecting names does, however, increase the danger of privacy breaches for Australian citizens which, given the ABS has been subject to 14 data breaches in the last three years, is particularly concerning. A simple way for the ABS put many Australians at ease is to make it optional for people to give their names and address.”

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“Pirate Party Australia is proud to announce that digital rights are central to our campaign in the 2016 Federal election. Campaigning under the slogan ‘Transparency Liberty Digital Rights,’ or TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read), we aim to reverse the trend of governments operating under an increasingly dense veil of secrecy, whilst subjecting citizens to increasingly intrusive surveillance.” said Lachlan Simpson, Pirate Party candidate for the Victorian Senate.

“The Internet has been under attack from successive governments. The Abbott/Turnbull government has passed a mass surveillance regime and legislation to enable Internet censorship, with the support of the ALP,” continued Lachlan. “We pledge to fight tirelessly for Internet freedom. Pirate Party Australia has an extensive platform on digital liberties[1] and was formed precisely to oppose such attacks on our rights.”

Since 9/11 Australia has passed more than 40 different terrorism related pieces of legislation. These have generally been passed with bi-partisan support and include many attacks on basic human rights[2]. We are now under warrantless mass surveillance[3], journalists can be jailed for reporting on investigations[4], citizens can be detained without charge[5] and ASIO can theoretically hack the entire Internet under a single warrant[6].

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